Skip to content

Contact sales

By filling out this form and clicking submit, you acknowledge our privacy policy.

4 ways to build a culture of change management and adaptability

Orgs need adaptability and a change strategy to navigate an evolving tech landscape. These 4 steps can help leadership build a culture of change management.

Sep 08, 2023 • 7 Minute Read

Please set an alt value for this image...
  • Business
  • Team Development
  • Learning & Development

The one constant we can depend on is change. Navigating the realities of a fast-paced, dynamic business landscape requires a change-ready culture—one that encourages adaptability, openness to innovation, and resilience in the face of uncertainty. Let's dive into the four key ingredients you need to establish a culture of change management.

Table of contents

What is a change-ready culture?

A change-ready culture promotes organizational resilience and fosters an environment where every individual understands the value of adaptability. Leadership has a change strategy, and teams are ready and willing to rapidly respond to new developments and adjust based on business needs.

This type of culture creates an invigorating atmosphere of innovation, a collective passion for learning, and a constant quest for improvement. The fear of change transforms into excitement, uncertainty becomes a catalyst for creativity, and resistance evolves into readiness. Change is not a disruptive force but an anticipated part of the journey toward growth.

4 steps to cultivate a culture of change management

Building and strengthening a change-ready culture, one in which everyone acknowledges the value of change and can adapt to shifting needs, should be a priority for all leaders.

1. Ignite the flame of change management

Cultivating a change strategy begins by ensuring team members are receptive to change. As a leader, you need to help employees understand the rapid pace at which the business environment transforms—and the potential implications if their organization fails to adapt and evolve.

When every individual in an organization understands and truly embraces the need for change management, they can pivot quickly, maintain agility in the face of uncertainty, and stay one step ahead of the curve. This understanding becomes the catalyst for fostering a resilient culture that views change as an opportunity for growth, not a threat to the status quo. 

Let’s review two simple ways business leaders can inspire change management in their employees.

Use storytelling that inspires a desire for change

You don’t need a dedicated event to inspire the desire for change in your team members. In fact, everyday conversations are often the best way to discuss the inevitability of change and its benefits with your team members.

Drawing from past experiences can make these discussions more relatable. For example, you might say, "Remember how challenging it was when we first shifted to remote working during the pandemic? Compare that to how natural it seems now.” Digital communication is another example of organization-wide change. Ask team members to recall how unreliable communication was before they used tools to collaborate with their peers and manage their workflows.

A story I often recount is the shift to cloud-based solutions. This significant change occurred just a few years ago and revolutionized how companies worldwide conducted their operations. It may seem trivial now, but at the time, the ability to access work files from anywhere, collaborate in real time, and securely back up everything on the cloud was truly revolutionary. 

When talking about change with your team, recount the initial anxiety, skepticism, and resistance many felt towards cloud environments. Yet despite those early misgivings, 94% of organizations are now in the cloud.

By sharing these stories, you make change less daunting and prepare your team members for success in today's ever-evolving business environment.

Recognize and reward adaptability

Rewarding employees for their flexibility and adaptability during change plays a critical role in change management. Recognition, whether through public acknowledgment, opportunities for career advancement, or even heartfelt 'thank you' notes, sends a clear message that change is necessary, respected, and appreciated. When employees know you value their efforts,  they’re more likely to approach future transformation with a growth mindset.

When you recognize an employee for a particular behavior, such as adaptability during change, it activates their brain's reward circuitry and releases dopamine. This dopamine, often referred to as the 'feel-good' hormone, motivates the employee to repeat the behavior that led to the reward. This feedback loop is a powerful tool that can help cultivate a change-ready culture.

2. Use consistent change methodology

To establish a culture of change readiness, you also need to use consistent change methodology across projects. In the words of leadership expert John C. Maxwell, "Consistency is the most underestimated leadership characteristic."

While the nature of change itself is variable, the methodology you use to manage it should be consistent. 

If you use a different method each time a new change comes along, it leaves the team unsure of what to expect. But if you use a consistent method to introduce and manage change initiatives, you give the team a clear roadmap, build trust in the process, and create common ground amidst upheaval. 

3. Proactively address change resistance

The next ingredient needed to cultivate a change-ready culture involves helping team members identify and decipher their reasons for resisting change. Identifying the root cause of why we or those we guide feel hesitant, uncertain, or outright fearful of change is a pivotal step in change management. We cannot conquer what we do not understand.

Whether you’re guiding team members through their change resistance or wanting to understand your own, consider reviewing these common causes to pinpoint the source of this reluctance:

  1. Fear of the unknown: As humans, we thrive on predictability. We have habitual patterns that structure our days, from snoozing the alarm for an extra five minutes to starting each morning with coffee and reading emails. These routines provide comfort. Disrupting routines often incites resistance.

  2. Desire to avoid discomfort or additional effort: We like deciding how much energy we invest in a project, a relationship, or our daily tasks. If we expect a change to cause us extra effort or discomfort, we may be reluctant to embrace it.

  3. Distrust of the change instigator: If we distrust the person or situation prompting the change, we’re more likely to resist it. High-trust relationships between leaders and employees can significantly reduce this resistance.

  4. Fear of failure or success: We may resist change because we’re afraid of failure, criticism, or even success. The fears will differ for each individual depending on their unique experiences and perspectives.

By unpacking and exploring these factors, you can start to dismantle the barriers to change management and employee engagement. Once you understand the resistance to change, you’ll be better equipped to guide your team members through the emotions associated with it.

Follow my newsletter for more ideas, best practices, and recommendations from leaders who are passionate about developing change-ready cultures.

4. Empower change champions with a culture of learning

The final piece of enabling a change-ready culture is fostering an environment of continuous learning for all team members. Extend opportunities for continual learning and growth to all team members, regardless of their roles. After all, the journey towards change readiness is a collective effort that demands continual evolution and growth from leaders and individual contributors alike.

In a continuous learning environment, leaders reward curiosity and inspire team memberes to stretch their capabilities, empowering them to respond to changes with more flexibility and adaptability. The ultimate goal involves more than simply accumulating knowledge—it’s about nurturing employees’ capacity to adapt, innovate, and apply that knowledge effectively.

While technical skills are certainly important, soft skills like teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, adaptability, and emotional intelligence are just as critical. These skills are the foundation of an individual’s ability to navigate change.

Check out my other articles:

You need a change management culture to win with AI tech

With AI in the driver's seat, change has never felt faster. AI is nudging us along the journey of change, pushing boundaries, and reshaping our work environments.

This gives leaders a golden opportunity to pave the way for a brighter, more efficient future. But it starts with transparent conversations. By proactively discussing the transformative potential of AI and highlighting real-world success stories, you can address the unknown and turn reservations into aspirations. 

It's about shifting perspectives. When employees witness tangible benefits—such as increased productivity, groundbreaking innovations, or simply the joy of eliminating repetitive tasks—they become more open to the change that AI will bring.

It’s not merely about accepting change; it’s about cultivating a culture where every team member feels empowered and inspired to harness the power of AI to step into tomorrow's challenges and opportunities.

Change management is a continual process

The journey towards a change-ready culture is not a one-time project but a continuous process. It requires leadership to spark a desire for change, use consistent change methodology, understand resistance, and promote continuous learning.

As leaders, our role extends beyond the boundaries of simply managing tasks and processes. We need to lead by example and foster a culture where change isn’t just acknowledged but genuinely embraced. 

As a Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP), I've curated a collection of Pluralsight Skills courses, in partnership with the Association of Change Management Professionals, specifically designed to help leaders lead change more effectively. Each course is packed with learnings and skills to elevate a leader’s change management capabilities.

Alice Meredith

Alice M.

Alice has vast experience as a multi-level senior leader with retail operations and human resources as specialties. Experience includes 27 years of leadership supporting technology companies holding positions of Regional Director, District Manager, Senior HR Market Manager, and Senior Manager Labor & Employee Relations.

More about this author